Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Discussions at ITForum and evaluatingelearning

Two similar threads are happening at ITForum and evaluatingelearninggroups which share a very similar theme.

In ITForum, Karen asked on behalf of a faculty member:

Could you please point me to references dealing with the pedagogical efficacy of on-line programs and to a few first class institutions that offer all on-line programs (not necessarily restricted to business)? My concern is not with service to students, flexibility, advantage to faculty -- I think those points are obvious. My concern is with the caliber of the student's educational experience, the impact on the faculty-student relationship (that EMU is so proud of), the extent of academic dishonesty, the actual damage to the integrity of degrees due to academic dishonesty, and the question of "credentialling" versus graduate education.

In evaluatingelearning, Anthea asked
As part of my organization's internal effort to understand how to translate a lot of our classroom content to online content, a hypothesis has emerged that "Content can be or should be delivered via asynchronous e-learning in less time than it would be delivered via classroom instruction" which suggests that for example a day of classroom time (8 hours) can be or should be delivered asynchronously in less than 8 hours (even assuming that we would break the 8 hours of content into 30 minute chunks).
I've read some reports and heard anecdotal evidence that suggest than we should think about efficiencies of 40%-50% (i.e., halve the time spent in the classroom when developing self-paced courses) but not enough to have a definite point of view. I would also imagine that a number of factors including design (types of exercises, simulations) and pace of each learner will affect the amount of time taken to complete an asynchronous course.

How do some of you think about this issue? Do you have any research or any advice on how we should think about converting a certain number of hours of classroom training into asynchronous training.

Both threads attracted active discussions showing the interest people have on this issue.

I stated my position in the ITForum thread with this post:
Are all online programs pedagogical sound? No.

Is there properly designed online program which is pedagogical sound? Yes, definitely.

Is a simple conversion of a traditional face to face program to online a good way for online program? No.

Does online program offer advantages to students, adult students in particular? Yes, obviously because these students can structure their study time around daily routines for asynchronously delivered program, save travel time for synchronously delivered program. But I don't see a compelling reason to deliver synchronous online program!

Is online program more efficient in terms of delivering learning outcomes? Yes, when properly designed. Asynchronous program gives amber time for students to research, reflect and response to learning activities.

Please, a white board, an overhead projector, a mic in a lecture hall, a discussion forum or email ARE tools. It is the way one use the tool(s) which determines the success of any program. If one's only tool is a hammer, all problems look like nails. For successful implementation of online program, familarize oneself with tools.

Some tools claim to be pedagogical independent - which is not true. Other claim to implement specific pedagogy (e.g. online role play simulation by The question should be to find a tool which one is comfortable with and use the tool well.

We have helped many people to use fablusi online role play in many courses in a wide range of subjects. Some of the simulations are available as demo in Please have a look and I will welcome questions about the pedagogy behind online role play simulation.

Rod Sims commented:
First, for those of us who have been with ITFORUM since its inception and with Computers and Education for much longer, these questions seem to appear which each new generation of technology:

The pedagogical efficacy of Computer-Assisted Instruction
The pedagogical efficacy of Hypermedia
The pedagogical efficacy of Multimedia
The pedagogical efficacy of Online Programs

And more recently …

The pedagogical efficacy of Blogs and Wikis
The pedagogical efficacy of Massively Multiplayer Online Learning
The pedagogical efficacy of Mobile Learning

The question is not whether a particular technology is pedagogically effective, but whether the pedagogical design has integrated the technology appropriately and that the users of the program are very clear as to their role and expectations within that program.

“Online” is not the issue here … pedagogy is.
[snip][my emphasis]

Rod's point of view is the other side of the coin from mine. (But a solid has must than two sides, so I put forward:)
...the interaction of tool and creations....With the coming of new technology, we should start exploring new pedagogical designs. [added emphasis for Random Walk]

and followed with an example of the pedagogical design that I have been actively promoting:
Based on the concept of role play, which all of us did when we were young, coupled with the asynchronous nature of internet-based communication, we have built a role play simulation platform (both the generator and the delivery). Fablusi role play simulation platform models human relationships, enables designers to create scenario and compelling kick-start episode, integrates tasks, various form of communication into a virtual space. Learners can explore, experience, take risks, try out new strategies and learn by doing.

Those who are interested are welcome to go to our website and download a design worksheet. The design worksheet will be useful not only for designing online role play. It should be useful for designing face to face role play as well.

You can see some of the hundreds of delivered simulation at The samples at simplay are simulations which has been delivered to groups of real learners. Thanks to the designers that they are available as sample/demos. To really enjoy the simulation, you need to form groups to play. After all, role play is a co-operative, collaborative learning activity.

For academic papers on the use of online role play simulation, please go to . is a guide to design online role play with different levels of technology uses.

Those in evaluatingelearning are more concerned in the actual times (hours) and my view is reflected in this post:
Can I ask where you get the data that said there is a 40-50% efficiency in time of delivery? I would be interested. My own experience suggests otherwise!

For "reading" type of course material, naturally we read (as in reading text) faster than any teacher can reasonable read (as in speaking out the content).

However, the most "time consuming" part of any learning process is the time the students need to spend with the content. This is dependent on person rather than on technology.

For asynchronous discussion forum, you have to allow time for students to log in (afterall they can log in at any time) and response to questions. So a simple question, in face to face would take a few minutes to get a response, may have to wait for days in order to allow for different log in times.

For online chat, the efficiency is *very* low. I personally hate online real time chat - too many distraction and very ineffective!

What other thinks?

Ajay Singh came in and provided this metrics:
Depending on the type of content that you are trying to convert to elearning from classroom, the following metrics may hold.

1. If the content is application training (software application training), the reduction is dramatic, almost 60-70%. This is due to the fact that all the setup time, the time required to login, machines not working, database crashing etc. is removed and software is taught as simulation only. This can be followed by a classroom session on "challenges" or specific issues for effectiveness
2. If the content is "Process learning" it again reduces the time by almost 30-45%
3. If the content is hard training (machine training, teaching someone to drive) etc. the reduction in training time is almost nil and in any case it is in effective as well. No one can learn driving by reading about it.
4. Soft skills are also reduced by almost 40-50%

On the other end of the spectrum, I can give my own information. In terms of design time required to deliver online role play simulations (which I have concrete data), when the concept has been mapped out (go to and download a design worksheet to work out a concept for your course), it would take about 1 day for Roni or myself to cut and paste into our Fablusi engine. This will create an online role play simulation for any group-size to experience your design from 3 weeks to any duration as you deem fit. However, it must be noted that, like any engaging online learning activities, we need to moderate the simulation. Roni has moderated 160-learner simulation based on a previous version of Fablusi single-handedly over the duration of the simulation - rough job!

These two discussion threads have shown that eLearning has been accepted generally. But it is a still a long way before we can make it a life-changing design. It is still early stage.

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